24 Feb 2002 - Back to Sydney
We drive back down from the mountains and head back into Sydney, admiring the view for the last time along the way. Once we get there our first stop is a bit of lunch in the district of Balmain, just west of the city centre and overlooking Darling Harbour.
The area is quaint in parts, although other bits cry out for a bit of TLC and restoration. It's amazing to us that in an area with such outrageously high housing prices you can find so many run down and decrepit buildings. Who owns these places and don't they know they're sitting on a goldmine?
After lunch (at a place called Mango - very tasty), we have a bit of a wander down the main street and check out the prices of houses in the realtor (real estate) windows. Wow! We're talking London or San Francisco prices here. They have tiny 2 or 3 bedroom terrace houses with no parking and a perhaps 100 sq feet of yard going for $800,000 (US$400,000 or UK£258,000). Ouch! Don't forget the average salary round these parts is about AUS$75,000. How does anyone afford to buy a place here? Apparently, it's got a lot worse in the past year, where prices have escalated dramatically and now there's a shortage of houses for sale, driving prices up even further. Bottom line - if you were planning on investing in Sydney real estate, you've missed the boat. You should have been down here 10 years ago mate!
We drive into the city and check into our apartment (Medina Classic Apartments, right in the middle of the city) and swing by Starbucks for a caffeine hit (it's been sooo long!). We then hop back into the car and take a scenic drive out east through Double Bay, Rose Bay and Watson Bay.
As the names suggest, these area are a series of very picturesque suburbs sitting on bays overlooking the Sydney harbour. We're talking prime real estate here. Some of the houses on the hill overlook the harbour, a bay full of beautiful yachts and the Sydney city skyline. Basically a view to die for - and in many cases this is probably what it took - it must have taken a lot of inheritance money to pay for some of these pads!
At Rose Bay we stop off at the Bluefin restaurant in the Rose Bay Afloat floating thingy (see photo) and enjoy the view so much that we make a reservation for dinner. We have a great time sitting here, watching the sea planes come and go and also the locals making a pigs ear of things on the boat ramp.
On to Watson Bay and we hop out again for a stroll round one of the numerous public parks that dot the bays. Today is Sunday, and a sunny one at that. Since the Sidney-siders (as the locals are known) have basically been deluged with rain for the past few weeks, everyone is out today making the most of the weather and having a bit of a picnic or BBQ (the art of BBQ is almost a region over here).
If you're a visitor to Sydney, you'd be well advised to avoid the tourist spots over the sunny weekends as they got totally mobbed (on week days they're almost deserted by comparison).
Back to the apartment. We drop the car off at a local parking garage (we've managed to wangle a deal on the room where parking is included, which turns out to be a bit of a coup since it costs $60 a day to park here). After wash and brush up in the room, we had back to the parking lot to pick up the car so that we can head back out to Bluefin for dinner. It's at this point that we discover that the parking lot is shut up tight for the night and the swipe card to get us in there after hours is safely tucked away in the car. Blast! Luckily, while I search aimlessly and fruitlessly for another way in, Lynn collars someone else with a swipe card and retrieves the car.
I'm happy to report that the effort to get out to Bluefin was well rewarded. The seafood there was absolutely delicious - this is a must for any Sydney visitor! The meal is made all the more entertaining by the slight rocking of the boat in the bay (or was it just that last glass of wine I had?).
25 Feb 2002 - Sydney day 2
We spend most of the day shopping for essential supplies and stuff that we'll be taking back home to the states. Lunch is a picnic on the rocks out near Rose Bay, overlooking the Sydney skyline and the harbour. It's a cloudy day, but at this point we're grateful as we'd have been fried to a crisp in full sunlight. All in all, a very salubrious spot for a picnic.
After lunch we finally track down a reasonably priced bottle of Grant Burge Meshach. This is stunning stuff - we discovered it while we were out in the Barossa Valley and had to get a bottle before we went home. Frankly, this stuff is way better (and a lot cheaper) that Penfolds Grange, the flagship Aussie wine.
Tonight we rendezvous with Eric, Lynn's friend from Portland, and hang out at the Wine Banc eating and spending outrageous sums on the well marked up wine list.
26 Feb 2002 - Sydney day 3
A fairly uneventful last full day in Sydney. Unable to miss the opportunity, we head back out to Bluefin for lunch and again we are not disappointed. We're even recognised and welcomed back like regulars, which was nice.
This evening, after a bit of take away from the local Chinese restaurant, we head out to meet a friend of Lynn's and her husband. We spend a delightful evening sitting outside, overlooking the harbour bridge, the opera house and the general comings and goings of Sydney's humanity. A very nice way to round off the vacation.
27 Feb 2002 - Flying home
And so the time has come to say a fond farewell to Sydney and the land of Oz. This has been a great trip and Lynn and I are determined to get ourselves back down here again later this year. I'm typing this last chapter from the innards of a 747, so if you're reading this we'll have to assume that we made it back safely.